May 23, 2017
Shneur Zalman Berger in #1069, Chabad History

When the Rebbe left 770 and began to walk home, an additional six plainclothes detectives accompanied him, all dressed in shorts and short sleeves. They walked very close to the Rebbe. We stopped at the corner of the street where the Rebbe lives, and the detectives, along with one of Anash, continued with the Rebbe until he entered his home. * Fascinating reports and memories from Sivan 5733 with the Rebbe, published for the very first time from the diary of the late R’ Saadia Maatuf.

By R’ Saadia Maatuf a”h


Motzaei Shabbos BaMidbar, 2 Sivan 5733

The Rebbe held a farbrengen today and again spoke about Mihu Yehudi. During the farbrengen, in middle of the penultimate sicha, we suddenly heard a clamor and screaming from outside. I stood in my place, all the way at the back of the room [near the door to the street] and the noise disturbed my ability to hear the Rebbe. The Rebbe paused speaking for two minutes and then continued.

A short while later, I heard from those standing near me, that there were hundreds of police outside beating mercilessly the Chassidim standing outside, and that they were swinging indiscriminately at anybody with a beard, and even children.

At the conclusion of the farbrengen we davened Mincha and after Mincha the Rebbe started a niggun and headed towards his room. We went outside to wait for the Rebbe and escort him home. Many blacks were congregated across the street and had no idea what was going on. Until a few minutes prior, the police were delivering blows to the Chassidim and now we are all standing outside in two rows and singing on the top of our lungs. Then suddenly the Rebbe came out and encouraged the singing with his hand motions. We were all flying high between heaven and earth. It was very joyous.

We were concerned that the blacks might try to cause harm to the Rebbe, G-d forbid, so we walked very close behind the Rebbe, only a few feet back. A few blacks were riding on bicycles in front of the Rebbe, but at some distance. It was an amazing experience to follow the Rebbe up close, to see how he says gut Shabbos to everyone, and the blacks watched in amazement how the Chassidim followed after the Rebbe. We reached the Rebbe’s street, the Rebbe crossed the street and we stopped at the corner. We could see in the distance that the fellows who had been riding ahead on bicycles had stopped not far from the Rebbe’s house. We were concerned, but one of Anash who was designated for this [a member of Shmira] continued to follow the Rebbe at some distance, and we followed with our eyes until the Rebbe entered his house and then we went to partake of the Shabbos day meal.

There was not a whole lot of appetite for food, because we were stressed over what might be happening with those Chassidim who had been arrested by the police. Meanwhile, I had heard how the tensions with the blacks had begun during the farbrengen:

As was usual during a farbrengen, the police put up a roadblock at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Brooklyn Avenue [to close off the entrance to the service lane near 770] so that cars should not pass through, because a large crowd of Chassidim would come out to the street at the end of the farbrengen.

This time, a car bypassed the roadblock and continued down the service lane near 770, and some Lubavitcher kids who were there blocked the street with their bodies, not allowing the car to proceed. The police on the scene instructed the driver to back up onto the boulevard [in order to cross over the island and get to the main road of Eastern Parkway]. However, there were some Chassidim there who questioned the police as to why they did not instruct him to go back the way he came. Meanwhile, some of the kids kicked the car. Immediately, one of the officers came and arrested one of the Chassidim, but he refused to enter the police vehicle. He made it clear to them that he is a Jew and he cannot ride in a car on Shabbos, and if they want he would walk with them on foot to the police station.

However, they insisted and forced him bodily into the police car. One of the Chassidim could not restrain himself and he tried to help the arrestee get out of the car, upon which the police put him into the car as well, but in the confusion that ensued the first guy managed to open the door from the other side and escape. The policeman grabbed the second one and said, “You are not going to get away,” and he called something in on his hand-held radio. Within moments, dozens of policemen converged on the scene with batons drawn, and a large-scale confrontation began between the police and the Chassidim.

The Rebbe’s secretary, R’ Leibel Groner, who arrived on the scene in order to disperse the Chassidim, also received blows. The police rained blows on everyone and there were a number of injuries among our people, and there were six officers who took some blows as well. Concurrently, the police arrested three Chassidim and brought them to the police station. R’ Groner went to the police station and pleaded with the police to let the Chassidim go, but to no avail.

[The author of the diary heard all of this during the course of the Shabbos day meal, and at some point during the meal:] Some guys came and said that everybody has to go to participate in a demonstration near the police station. We all went to the police station on Empire Boulevard. At the demonstration, they sang “Tziyon halo sishali l’shlom asirayich” [at that time it was popular to sing that at demonstrations to free Russian Jewry], “V’chol karnei reshoim,” “Podoh v’shalom nafshi,” and other songs.

There were some people from the Jewish Defense League there [under the leadership of R’ Meir Kahane Hy”d. They would always operate very aggressively] and they were planning to cause a major disruption. However, R’ Groner addressed the demonstrators in Yiddish, and he made it clear that if they would wait quietly, there was a better chance that those arrested would be freed. At first, there were those who were listening to the leader of the JDL group and wanted to start rioting, but one of the Chassidim immediately got up and informed the ringleader that all of the Chassidim would obey R’ Groner, and if he said to stay quiet then they would all stay quiet.

Meanwhile, the crowd continued to sing and it kept growing until the entire street opposite the police station was sealed off, which caused traffic problems. There was someone there by the name of Shimshon, who screamed at the police, “Why don’t you beat those children over there [meaning the black children]? What is the difference between here and there?” He continued to scream at the police but they did not respond.

There was tremendous pushing when we were standing on the steps of the police station, and at some point they instructed everybody to clear the steps and wait. We continued to wait there, until about an hour after midnight [of Motzaei Shabbos] when they released one of the Chassidim. We continued to sing, but there were some demonstrators who had already dispersed and gone home. Another hour passed and another one was freed, and after an additional hour the third one was also freed. One of the Chassidim who came there with his car, stubbornly insisted on driving through the police barricade near the demonstration and he too was arrested, but in the end he was freed too. We went to sleep extremely exhausted after being on our feet for many hours, at the farbrengen and at the demonstration.


Sunday, 3 Sivan

Despite the late hour that we went to sleep the night before, at 7:30 in the morning I showed up for Chassidus learning. Today, there was hardly any news, except that the review of the farbrengen took place today, because yesterday it was impossible to have the review due to the demonstration.

Monday, 4 Sivan

At around 3PM, the Rebbe went to the Ohel, and Mincha took place at a late hour. The Rebbe came out to Mincha in Shabbos garb, and this was one of the signs for us that there would be a farbrengen. For us, this was a surprise farbrengen.

The farbrengen began at 9:30 and opened with the maamer, “Besha’a shehikdimu,” and it ended at 11:40, which was a relatively short farbrengen for a weekday. The Rebbe left 770, and this time the police did not provide an escort, apparently because of the events of the past Shabbos.



At 6PM the Tahalucha set out. Relative to the Tahalucha of Acharon shel Pesach the heat was oppressive. Of course we walked with a police escort. We arrived in Boro Park and danced there in front of the Chabad shul, and from there we divided up to different shuls. I went to the shul of the Yemenites, together with Chaim Mesharki, Chaim Tzadok, Gershon Ochana, Kuti Rapp, and others. We asked for permission to speak in front of the congregation, and in the beginning they refused with the argument that they have a rabbi and he already gives them a speech. In the end they allowed us to speak, but only for five minutes.

Kuti Rapp spoke about Mihu Yehudi, and also encouraged them to send their children to religious summer camps during the summer vacation. He concluded, and their rabbi got up to speak after him. At the outset, he praised the Rebbe somewhat, but then he began to speak tauntingly about the fact that the Rebbe does not go to Eretz Yisroel, and why is the Rebbe against R’ Goren and the Mizrachi party. [This was at the height of the “brother and sister” controversy, in which R’ Goren permitted mamzerim to marry, in opposition to the views of all the greatest rabbis. That is why the Rebbe called for him to resign his position as the Chief Rabbi, whereas the Mizrachi party supported R’ Goren and besmirched the chareidi rabbis in general, and the Rebbe in particular.] In short, they were a disappointment for us… We tried to respond to them to the best of our ability, but they were not swayed. It turned out that the “rabbi,” and I have no idea why he was called by that title, was nothing more than a Mizrachi activist sent to encourage aliya. After lengthy debates, the rabbi himself began to back down from his attacks.

We returned to the Chabad shul, where other groups who had gone to other shuls also arrived. We made kiddush, tasted some mezonos (baked goods), and went out into the street where they held a talk for the onlookers about Mihu Yehudi, and from there we returned to the base – Beis Chayeinu – 770.

Second Day Shavuos

The farbrengen began at 8 in the evening and ended at 1:20 at night. At the conclusion of the farbrengen there was Maariv. The Rebbe then made Havdala on the kos and the distribution of kos shel bracha began. The Rebbe poured and the crowd sang niggunim, among them “Ozreini Keil Chai.” When they sang “Ki Elokim Yoshia Tziyon,” it was especially joyful. When the Rebbe ended the distribution, he covered the cup with a paper, said the after-blessing, and began to go out with the cup in his hand and started the niggun “Atah Vechartanu.”

The Rebbe left 770 and encouraged the singing. This time also, he traveled without a police escort.


Friday, 8 Sivan

Today, the Rebbe received people for yechidus until 8 o’clock before kabbalas Shabbos. Due to the yechidus, the Rebbe did not go home at all today.

There was someone there who had come out from Georgia, who wanted to go in for yechidus [apparently, after the Rebbe had stopped accepting people]. The secretary, R’ Binyomin Klein did not allow him to enter, but he literally cried. R’ Klein went into the Rebbe to ask if he should allow the man in and the Rebbe answered in the affirmative. The Jew went in for less than half a minute.


Motzaei Shabbos Naso, 9 Sivan

This Shabbos, bli ayin ha’ra, there were nine chassanim, seven of whom went up to the Torah in the morning and two at Mincha [in those years, such a large number of chassanim was an anomaly]. On Shabbos the Rebbe farbrenged as usual. The Rebbe told R’ Yoel Kahn to sing “Yifrach B’yamav,” and from that it was understood that the song [from the Rebbe’s chapter of T’hillim for that year] was accepted, and from that point on they began to sing it more often.

At the farbrengen, the Rebbe spoke again about Mihu Yehudi, and during one of the songs the Rebbe clapped for a very long time. It is impossible to describe this feeling. After the farbrengen was Mincha, and after the davening the Rebbe began to sing “Atah Vechartanu” and entered his room. We waited outside as usual, and when the Rebbe exited we sang very loudly, and we accompanied the Rebbe.

It should be mentioned that due to the events of the previous Shabbos, the blacks planned a demonstration against the closing of the street [the service lane on the side of 770]. The secretary, R’ Groner, informed everybody not to get involved in the whole issue, and if anything happens on their part, to allow the police to handle it. What ended up happening was that many policemen were already on the scene from the night before and they stood guard the entire night. When the farbrengen began, the blacks came to demonstrate, but it passed without any untoward occurrences.

When the Rebbe left 770 for his home, he crossed the street not in the usual place, but in front of their house of worship. The Rebbe was accompanied [besides for the police that were there to keep order] by six plainclothes police detectives, all dressed in short pants and short sleeved shirts. They walked literally very close to the Rebbe. We stopped at the turn to the street where the Rebbe lives [President Street], and the detectives together with one of Anash continued with the Rebbe until he entered his home.


Motzaei Shabbos B’Haalos’cha, 16 Sivan

This Shabbos we waited for a farbrengen, but it did not end up happening, so the road was not blocked. However, when we exited from the davening, the police blocked the road with a police car until all of the Chassidim dispersed.


Sunday, 17 Sivan

Today the Rebbe received people for yechidus. The yechidus began at 8PM and continued until 12 midnight. Among those who went in was R’ Nochum Kaplan form Shikkun Chabad in Lud.

There was a father who went into yechidus with his son and daughter, and the Rebbe gave each of them a Siddur.

A writer for Hamodia, R’ B. L., went into the Rebbe for his 19 year old son who had become blind and partially paralyzed. He asked if they should teach his son Braille since his son doesn’t want to learn, and there is concern that he will give up all hope. The Rebbe answered that he should learn this form of writing and he should not give up hope, especially as today there are so many new discoveries in research. The reason for his blindness is unknown, but the supposition is that since he has the dreaded disease, the doctors may have used too much radiation and caused damage to the brain and that is the cause of his becoming blind. The Rebbe added that the reason for the doctors saying that there is no hope is in order to take the responsibility off their own shoulders. The man asked the Rebbe if he should take his son out of the hospital where he is [in America], and the Rebbe answered that on the contrary, the longer he remains there the better it is. The Rebbe said to him that as far as the book that he published, he would send him a response as well as notes on his writing.


Motzaei Shabbos Shlach, 23 Sivan

Today there was a farbrengen. This time the Rebbe spoke only briefly about Mihu Yehudi.

Nine chassanim went up to the Rebbe to receive wine. During this distribution, the Rebbe called out three times for Nachman Maidanchek, and gave him mashke to send for his sister’s wedding [Mrs. Miriam Blinitzky, married to R’ Chaim Avrohom Blinitzky]. At the end of the farbrengen, the Rebbe began to sing “Hinei Ma Tov U’ma Naim” and waved his holy hand.

After the farbrengen, there was Mincha with the Rebbe, and at the conclusion, the Rebbe began to sing “Nyet Nyet.” As usual, we waited for the Rebbe to leave 770. When he exited he made a sign with his hand and a powerful song burst forth, and that is how we accompanied the Rebbe as usual.


Sunday, 24 Sivan

Today the Rebbe addressed the graduates of Beis Rivka. We all gathered in the small zal. We thought that, as is usually the case in such events, we would hear the Rebbe over the loudspeaker, but we waited for a long time and the loudspeaker was silent, until we realized that it was broken. I jumped out through the window [of the small zal], came around 770 and climbed up on the chain link fence. I almost fell from high up, but B”H nothing happened. I saw the Rebbe clearly [through the back windows of 770] and I even managed to hear, although I missed the beginning. The sicha went on for about half an hour.

Today, R’ Peretz the mikva attendant [R’ Peretz Chein] passed away. Just this past Friday he was demanding money from the bachurim for the use of the mikva, as usual, and suddenly… May his soul be bound up in the bond of life. We thought that they would bring him here and the Rebbe would go out, but the funeral left from Williamsburg.

This evening, the Rebbe received people for yechidus, and among those who went in was the Skulener Rebbe [Reb Eliezer Zusia Portugal] who lives on Brooklyn Avenue [in Crown Heights]. The Admur went in for a yechidus that lasted about three quarters of an hour. When he exited, the Rebbe accompanied him until the doorway of his room.

At the conclusion of yechidus, at 12 midnight, we davened Maariv with the Rebbe.


Wednesday, 27 Sivan

[The Rebbe’s secretaries would work from the early morning hours until the late hours of the night, and they would tell how their children barely ever saw them, and would sometimes come to the office just to see their father. The following entry epitomizes that – SZB]:

Before Mincha, something a bit interesting happened. The wife of the secretary R’ Leibel Groner came to the secretariat office with her son. She went inside and left her son out in the hall. After some time, R’ Groner left the office and went into the Rebbe’s room. . One of the Chassidim who came there with his car, stubbornly insisted on driving through the police barricade near the demonstration and he too was arrested, but in the end he was freed too.


Motzaei Shabbos Korach, Rosh Chodesh, 30 Sivan

Today, the farbrengen we had awaited took place, and the Rebbe spoke briefly about Mihu Yehudi. After the farbrengen was Mincha, and as usual, we accompanied the Rebbe after the farbrengen. After Mincha, the Rebbe began the song “Eimosai Ko’osi Mar,” and that is also what we sang when he left 770.

This time, when the Rebbe was walking home by way of Brooklyn Avenue, he crossed the street not at the light, and in general, not like every other Shabbos. I heard that when the doors to their house of worship are open, the Rebbe does not pass in front of it and crosses the street before. The Rebbe waited for the cars to pass, and then he walked between the cars until we got to the street that the Rebbe lives on. We stood watching after the Rebbe until he entered his house.

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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